Avoid well-meaning documentaries, take statistics and news headlines with a pinch of salt, and never mind the health warnings.
This year, my New Year’s resolutions are very simple.
1) I have resolved to stop watching well-meaning, meaningless documentaries, as usually shown on Channel Four.
You know the type – programmes made under the auspices of doing social good by educating the viewer, but are actually an opportunity to ogle the unfortunate. I have seen hours of footage of teenagers drinking, people suffering cannabis-associated psychosis, posh girls spending too much money, young bulimics talking out their daily food out-take, inmates at Feltham singing about their lack of male role models – and so on.
My favourite example from last year has to be Tainted Love, in which a Channel Four team lurked in an STD clinic to film what went on. The crew was so desperate for people to agree to be filmed, they had to resort to filming patients’ feet at one point. It seems that even people with posh shoes can get the clap.
There wasn’t much in it for those who did agree to be filmed. We saw them having their swabs taken in full detail, and then heard the bad news. We heard the nurse explaining that she had found no evidence of infection in one dozy girl’s vagina, ‘just a little sperm’. We even saw one guy, who was being tested for chlamydia after his girlfriend returned from holiday infected, realise she had cheated on him. ‘It was you guys who prompted me to think about it’, he told the well-meaning ‘documentary’ makers.
Aside from the ‘duhs’ as one couple repeatedly re-infected each other, unable to stay off sex while their antibiotics ran their course; and the ‘ergs’, as men had cotton buds stuffed up their urethras, there wasn’t much in it for the viewer. On the whole, you probably would have learnt more by watching a porno movie.
2) I will take statistics and ‘factual’ programmes with a pinch of salt.
There was one interesting fact in Tainted Love reeled off by one of the doctors: one in 10 women under 25 will catch chlamydia, but looking at the number of diagnoses last year, 90 percent don’t know they have it. This begs the most interesting question of the programme – if 90 percent of women with chlamydia don’t know they have it, then how do the doctors know about them?
Similarly, the cannabis/psychosis programme explained the link between the drug and psychotic symptoms at length, but then ended with a scientist talking about her new research to try and establish a scientific link between the two.
I wonder if 90 percent of women with chlamydia would think promotion of sexual health is a good excuse to make crap TV? Turning off my TV might not make these programmes go away, but it will mean I have more time to do other, more productive things.
3) I will stop believing headlines such as ‘War on Iraq imminent’, ‘Closing in on bin Laden’ or ‘Northern Ireland on the brink of crisis’.
I will remind myself these are not really headlines – just glorified stalemates. In spite of the headlines, these situations and others went on and on throughout 2002, with no real conclusion on the horizon. As a substitute for the government taking decisive action, we had to make do with editors’ decisive wording of their headlines instead.
You could almost make a mathematical equation for it: x = assertiveness of headline, y = number of times it will appear in a year, and both values have a reciprocal relationship with z = what actually changes.
4) I resolve to look after my health and general wellbeing.
I will drink no more than 12 units of alcohol a week. I will cut down on fatty foods. I will get smoking cessation counselling. I will exercise for 30 minutes, five times a week. I will limit use of my mobile phone, and stay well clear of phone signal transmitters.
I will cut out coffee and drink yoghurts with friendly bacteria instead. I will stop watching violent films and stop letting my little sister watch horror movies. I will sell my PlayStation. I will not enter internet chat rooms. I will not go to any more heavy metal concerts, so as to preserve my hearing, and I will not play my walkman loudly either.
I will have only safe, safe sex. I will cover up in the sun and check my breasts for lumps each month. I will not take potentially addictive, over-the-counter analgesics, even if my head is killing me. I will wriggle my feet and ankles on aeroplanes, instead of watching the in-flight entertainment. I will avoid men when drinking in bars, and keep my eyes firmly trained on my white wine spritzer, to guard against drug rape.
I will take up yoga to avoid stress. I will not look at pictures of beautiful slim people, so as to safeguard my self-esteem. I won’t get my body pierced, tattooed or liposucked. Finally, I will go on Kilroy and tell everyone about everything that has gone wrong in my life, to exorcise my demons, so people will understand and learn from my experiences.
Yeah, right. In 2003, I resolve to enjoy myself, in spite of the constant insistence from authorities and self-proclaimed experts that I don’t.